Climate change will transform the reality for future generations. However, one thing is certain, we will need to adapt to the vagaries of climate change that are already occurring across Canada as everywhere else. Physical infrastructure assets are part of the top six areas of climate change risk in Canada and could generate irreversible consequences over the next 20 years . This is one of the reasons that, at CIMA+, we promote innovative solutions to reduce environmental impacts, and particularly greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) and to enhance resiliency of the infrastructures that we design.
Think sustainable building
When the time comes to build in a sustainable manner, several elements must be evaluated, from the extraction to the elimination of raw materials. Several rating systems and tools are now available to rigorously analyze the best options. LEED™ certifications or Zero Carbon Building™ (ZCB) or whole building life cycle analysis namely come to mind. Life cycle analysis remains a tool of choice based on an international ISO standard that allows for effectively measuring embodied carbon emissions, as well as other environmental impacts over a building’s life cycle. For new construction, it is important to evaluate all carbon emissions, including upfront carbon generated during the production and construction phases, operational carbon produced during the building operation phase, and lastly, end of life carbon generated during building demolition and elimination of materials. The choice of materials during the design phase is therefore an important step to minimize the quantity of embodied carbon. According to the Zero Carbon Building Design Standard V.3: “Embodied carbon emissions are derived from the manufacturing, transport, installation, use, and end-of-life of building materials.” Life cycle analysis also serves to support the process of obtaining a LEED or ZCB certification. At CIMA+, we are already designing sustainable buildings for our clients, as illustrated in the following examples.
Charlesbourg high school — Life cycle analysis (LCA) — LEED
In the framework of a LEED certification, the Société québécoise des infrastructures tasked us with performing a life cycle analysis for the Charlesbourg high school. This study first enabled us to evaluate environmental impacts associated with the construction, and then to identify the best strategies for mitigating them. In a nutshell, the comparative life cycle analysis between the reference and proposed buildings resulted in a reduction of at least 10% in four categories of environmental impacts. We proposed the following mitigation solutions that were incorporated into the project’s specifications:
- The columns supporting the roof of the three-storey atrium that were initially supposed to be made of steel were replaced by glue-laminated timber columns and beams.
- The brick veneer was replaced with natural stone on the first floor and aluminum on the upper levels.
- Concrete containing 25% of blast-furnace slag (industrial waste that replaces Portland concrete) was used in foundation walls, footings, pilasters and shear walls.
This life cycle analysis contributed to earning three LEED points for the LEED v4.1 Materials and resources: Building Life-Cycle Impact, Whole-Building Life-Cycle Assessment option.
MIFO Community Centre — Life cycle analysis (LVA) — ZCB design v.3
The Mouvement d’implication francophone d’Orléans (MIFO) will build a new community centre to house the multiple services it provides for the Orléans French-speaking community. The new three-storey building will include a gymnasium, a theatre, creative studios, as well as numerous multifunctional and music rooms. With a total area of approximately 5,079 m², it will be comprised of a steel framework with an envelope made of brick and a large curtain wall on its front façade. Our teams have conducted a life cycle analysis to evaluate embodied carbon and find out if the project met the ZCB v.3 standard requirements. With the proposed design for a steel structure and envelope with bricks, aluminium and one façade with window walls, a carbon intensity of 433.40 kg eq. CO2/m² was calculated. Therefore, our teams could conclude that this project meets the prerequisites according to the standard’s compliance option: intensity of absolute embodied carbon with a carbon intensity below 500 kg eq. CO2/m². Once again, this study shows the importance of material choice in terms of a building’s environmental impact.
To learn more about this project, click here.
Building in a sustainable manner in a world where resources are not unlimited also means that we need to think about how we can use material in an effective and innovative way. We are proud to join forces with Lafarge and Pomerleau in the framework of the Québec BVI (green and smart building) Co-Creator Challenge to Repurpose Materials . With this accelerated co-creation innovation program, we wish to encourage the circularity of residual construction materials through the implementation of innovative practices and involvement of players in our value chains.
In conclusion, our teams at CIMA+ are ready to tackle any environmental challenge. By encouraging sustainable and innovative ways of thinking and taking into consideration climate change, we are contributing to building a better future.
- Council of Canadian Academies. Canada’s Top Climate Change Risks, Ottawa (ON): The Expert Panel on Climate Change Risks and Adaptation Potential, Council of Canadian Academies, 2019. https://www.cca-reports.ca/wp-content/uploads/2019/07/Report-Canada-top-climate-change-risks.pdf
- Canadian Green Building Council (CAGBC). (2020). Zero Carbon Building Design Standard Version 3. ZCB-Design v3. Consulted November 17, 2022 at https://www.cagbc.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/06/CAGBC_Zero_Carbon_Building-Design_Standard_v3.pdf